Like your mother taught you…

I know in this age of Facebook and Twitter and texting our normal communication inherently helps us avoid the horror of a phone call or actually using the U.S. Postal Service, but there are some things that still matter. RSVPs matter. Letting people know they either can or shouldn’t expect you to be at the party they are taking time and energy to plan is important, lest they be left with favor bags full of baked goods and tons of uneaten (and VERY delicious) food.

A lot has changed over the time I’ve been alive, but the work that goes into throwing a nice invitation-only party has not. There is preparation that goes into these things. We’re talking about a lot of hard work – food prep, favors, games (if it’s that kind of party), many different things that require knowing a number and names of guests.


This weekend I sat with a few friends and some family around a campfire at the home of a very nice couple who know my parents better than they know me. Months ago they generously offered to throw us a wedding shower. To my left sat my freaking awesome fiance (more on that guy here), and just over his shoulder was a table covered in snacks, and white bags individually labeled for each expected guest. The bags weren’t there because we were waiting patiently to grab our own. The bags on the table were left by people who never showed and never called to say they wouldn’t. The party in question required a “regrets only” RSVP – A phone call from those who wouldn’t make it. Most (certainly not all) didn’t give that courtesy.

Yes, I was hurt by my friends not showing up or calling the hosts. I show up for a lot of people. I’m sure I screw up a lot of things in relationships, but I do show up. I make a genuine effort for those who matter to me. For years I’ve gone to bachelorette parties and kids birthday parties, more baby and bridal showers than I can count, and every wedding I could possibly make it to. Some people tell me I “should say no more often”, but I don’t, because when it comes down to it, I want people to know they matter to me. If I miss something you’ve formally invited me to, I guarantee there is a very good reason. This weekend I felt like a lot of people didn’t give us the same courtesy. It may be small in the grand scheme of life. It may seem petty. In fact, it is smaller and more petty than some unrelated tough things I’m dealing with in other realms of life right now, but it still hurt.

Yes, for me, it was embarrassing, rude and a little hurtful… but it really doesn’t matter what it meant for me.

At the end of the day, I know it doesn’t really say anything about the caliber of the friends we have. I know it says more about how busy we’ve all become. I know this issue is not exclusive to our party. I’ve attended several others that played out the same way, but this one hit home for me. I know this is about a larger societal shift, not just me and Russ and whether we’re loved (Spoiler alert: we are and we’re lucky). It’s a sign of the times. Society’s priorities are changing and maybe not in the best ways when it comes to nurturing relationships.

The truth is, Russ and I had a really great time celebrating with the friends who showed up. It was a solid group of incredibly special people — those who remind us on a regular basis that we have all of the love and support and friendship we need in this world.

If I could change anything, it wouldn’t be a change to those who showed up. I’d love to have had any combination of the invited guests there. They were all invited because they’re important to me. I had a wonderful night and left feeling, once again, like we are two of the luckiest people to be able to start this life together with so much support.

No, what I’d change is the lack of courtesy shown for those who worked hard to plan the night. I’d like to give the host and hostess a simple heads up about the bags of baked goods and party favors that wouldn’t be needed.

This isn’t about the sting I felt on Saturday. I woke up on Sunday feeling as loved as any other day of the year.  This is a bigger issue about manners. I’m not one to take people to task or call individuals out and I wouldn’t dream of doing so, because we’ve all gotten too busy at one time or another, but we can do better. We can take a tiny moment out of our sometimes hectic lives to respect the time and efforts of other people. We can show them they’re at least important enough for common courtesy.

Show up or don’t, but at the very least please just make the phone call.

I don’t see my fiance during the week, except for occasional lunches. We work different schedules. I arrive home from work an hour or so after he leaves to start his day.

Most weeks we meet for lunch on Wednesday. He usually comes downtown and we pick a spot on a bench or by the river to have a picnic.

It’s both ordinary and extraordinary.

Two weeks ago a group of adults on some sort of work-related scavenger hunt stopped us to ask if we’re together. They needed to find a couple to tell how they got together in a short recorded video clip. They hit record and I said “we were friends for a couple of years and now we’re engaged”.

I didn’t simplify that for the sake of saving space on this website. That is literally all I said. They thanked us and moved on, probably to find a couple with a better story to tell.

But we do have a better story to tell. I left out so many things.

I didn’t mention the story he tells of the first day he met me at work – how he remembers what I was wearing.

I didn’t mention the nights we went out with co-workers to our favorite pizza spot downtown and played pool.

I didn’t say one word about the night we carpooled, entirely out of convenience, and a simple conversation about concerts made us realize there was something more.

I didn’t tell them how we went on our first date to waffle house because it was the only place open when we got off work at midnight on a Wednesday, or how our second date was spent throwing a football back and forth on a local high school field.

I didn’t tell them Russ waited until the fourth date to kiss me (and I was *this* close to thinking I had misinterpreted the whole thing).

I didn’t say one word about how Russ came into my life at a time when I was struggling more than ever with friendships and heartbreak – and how he unknowingly saved me from a weird, stupid spiral of sadness that was so unlike me.

I left out the part about how he makes me laugh hard every single day, and that he laughs at all of my stupid jokes. He even laughs when I tell him (all the time) that he is “the weirdest one in this relationship” because we both know I’m deflecting.

I didn’t tell them this is the easiest thing I’ve ever done, or that his family made me feel like part of their family the minute I met them.

I didn’t tell them that planning a wedding is my worst nightmare and somehow Russ makes it fun.

Somewhere in town there are three co-workers who think they met a nice, boring couple with a terrible story to tell their future children.

Because some things are too big for conversation.

A week or two after we started dating – both of our hairstyles are unreasonably long.

Just a technicality

So I did this little thing that, lord knows, Elizabeth Wren Sanders at many different ages probably thought would never happen. I said yes to loving someone forever. These are funny things, proposals. If done correctly then you already know you’re in it forever and saying yes is just a technicality. Regardless, what a thrill.

For weeks I’ve known Russ was going on a guy weekend in Atlanta. He and a couple of good friends do this trip down there to hit a brewery and tour some Walking Dead set sites. They’ve done it twice before. This was going to be the third time, and I made fun of him pretty relentlessly for not being creative enough to come up with a new trip.

We make fun of each other a lot. It’s what we do.

Russ wasn’t in Atlanta. None of the guys were in Atlanta. Their instagram accounts would have you believe otherwise, a detail that proved handy as I sat by the pool with some girlfriends on Saturday and casually scrolled through the ol’ IG (is that what the kids call it?)

That’s right. Russ planned a guys weekend and I very quickly planned a girls weekend to counter it. I spent most of my day laying poolside, chatting with friends, and letting the sun zap all my energy while turning my skin a little darker. My guy was out of town and I’d be alone the rest of the night, though I assumed I’d be headed to dinner with at least a couple of the girls.

-My mom called and attempted to make dinner plans with me. I knew I’d be tired from the pool day and still hoped for dinner plans with the girls. I declined.-

Let me take a moment right now to just tell you that when Russell A. LaFleur makes a plan, he really makes a plan. I can’t even tell you how many people knew about the proposal before I did, but it was the majority of the people within a 60 mile radius who might potentially ask me to hang out on this particular Saturday night.

I continued to hang out with my friends, still assuming someone would probably stick around for dinner.

-My mom called again. This time to make a plan for me to come over to see about a baby goat that would be moving to the farm. I was still tired, and really not interested in taking the 40 minute drive to Liberty. I declined again.-

My friends left. I couldn’t convince anyone to stick around for dinner and by this point I was tired enough to not try very hard to do so.

-My mom called for a third time. Seriously, why won’t she give this thing up, right? I’m tired. She tells me they need to talk to me and it’s important. Everything is okay, but they need to have this conversation while Russ is out of town.-

If you know me at all you know that I heard everything in this conversation except “Everything is okay”. I threw on some decent clothes, didn’t shower, didn’t wash my hair or the sunscreen off my face, and hurried to my car.

They didn’t think I’d come over so quickly. Sunset wasn’t until 8ish.

As soon as I walked in the door my dad stopped me. He told me to get in the car we were going to see about a baby goat. At this point I was frustrated and confused because we were supposed to be having some serious talk and now there I was talking about a baby goat again.

You know where this is going. Distraction after distraction as they stalled until it got close to sunset. Around the time the sky normally glows orange my mom made up an excuse for us to ride on the tractor to the bottom of the hill where we have our legendary (among family and close friends) campfires.

I’m questioning my intelligence now as I share this story with you and wonder how I didn’t pick up on any of the quirks of my day, but I’d also like to take this moment to swear to you that it’s totally normal for my parents to be mid-conversation then randomly suggest we “take the tractor down by the creek to make sure the fire is out before the wind picks up.”

My parents’ property is a giant hill. The house sits on top, and my favorite corner of the land is on the back left at the bottom of the hill. A creek wraps around much of the back property line. The path we take over the hill carries the tractor through a fence on the far right side of the back pasture. From there you can see the trees by the campfire from about eye level on up to the sky, but you can’t see the ground. I stopped my mom near the bottom of the hill and told her I thought the fire had already spread. I could see tiny flames scattered through the branches. She played along and told my dad to hurry up (hurry up on a tractor — nice one, mom).

As we rounded the corner I saw a figure in my favorite blue and red checkerboard shirt sitting nervously by a fire. I burst into tears, because that’s my move, and because I finally knew what was happening.

My sweet parents dropped me off, waved goodbye, then made the slowest exit of all time on a decade old Case tractor that probably moves about 3 miles an hour.

The flames in the trees were candles.

There was no Atlanta.

There was just a boy who’d spent his entire day with my parents hanging candles in mason jars, string lights, and old notes we’ve written each other all across my favorite clearing by the creek.

We read the notes that were hanging. They were some of our favorites. He told me he’d spent the week preparing while I thought he was at the gym. He told me that he picked up topaz colored glitter to cover the insides of the mason jars. He told me he chose notes because he knows how important words and writing are to me.

I cried like a baby as he handed me one last note with my name on the outside and “Will you marry me?” on the inside. Then he got down on one knee, held up my Mamaw’s ring, and said all the things I could possibly want him to say about sharing this life. I’m not going to tell you he cried (but he totally did).

I said yes (spoiler alert).

The craziest thing about it is I’ve been saying yes. For months we’ve been saying yes. We’ve laughed and cried (again, mostly me). We’ve hiked in some old favorite spots and found some new ones. We’ve run together. We’ve thrown the football around almost every week just like we did on our first date. We’ve spent time with each other’s families, and shared big holidays. We’ve grown together into this thing that already felt like forever. The proposal was beautiful. It was perfect. It included all of the things I love most in this world, but it was ultimately just a technicality.

That tree in the back has my parents initials carved into it. Russ and I are hoping to add ours.
That tree in the back has my parents initials carved into it. Russ and I are hoping to add ours.
Shoutout to me for not showering or fixing my hair prior to all of this
Shoutout to me for not showering or fixing my hair prior to all of this
This is me grinning like a crazy person/showing off the ring. Mamaw and Papaw got married in 1949. So it's at least 66 years old. Mamaw and Papaw happen to be two of the most important people in my life. I am honored to wear this ring.
This is me grinning like a crazy person/showing off the ring. Mamaw and Papaw got married in 1949. So it’s at least 66 years old. Mamaw and Papaw happen to be two of the most important people in my life. I am honored to wear this ring.

Still finding goldfish.

It’s me and you, sitting on top of my car, legs dangling through the sunroof.

You’ll ask me if we’re going to dent the roof.
I’ll say no.
I’ll find out later I was wrong, but really, you can barely tell.

We’re tossing goldfish crackers in the air and trying to catch them on our tongues. A pink and orange glow bathes your face as you lean forward for a catch. The sun is quickly dropping behind the blue ridge. Our laughter muffles the already faint sound of live music playing from a stage nearly a mile away. We’ve walked back to our campsite from a show we don’t really care to see, because the company we’re keeping is immeasurably better than a band we’ve already seen play an early set.

Every campsite around us seems empty. If anyone is nearby, they must be napping.

In this moment our lives go on forever, and we’re somehow younger than our birth certificates would actually show.

We’re just two kids on a car, and months from now I’ll still be finding old goldfish between my car seats.

I’m no expert on love

I remember the phone ringing pretty early in the morning on Valentine’s day 1995. It was the only phone line in the house. I wasn’t expecting a call, seven year olds rarely do… particularly when they’re the youngest person in a household of five. The phone hung on the wall in the kitchen and had one of those long loopy cords that meant it could stretch a long way. I didn’t care to stretch it out into the hallway. First graders don’t need privacy for their personal calls.

I heard his voice on the other end of the line. A sheepish little boy telling me he had a special Valentine’s gift for me and asking if it’d be okay to bring it to school. Obviously I said yes, which is how I ended up, a few hours later, standing with my jaw dropped in the middle of Mrs. Russ’s classroom as Paul stood on a table with his arms outstretched yelling “I LOVE ELIZABETH!”. He’d made me cookies and bought me stickers, which would’ve sufficed, but the real “gift” appeared to be a public declaration of his love.

That particular Valentine’s Day was followed by two decades of what we’ll generously call less eventful Valentine’s Days.

I make no effort to hide the fact that I haven’t had many boyfriends. I’m not embarrassed by it. I don’t feel like less of a woman for it. I can easily pinpoint stages of goofiness, awkwardness, total naivety as the reasons behind several of my single Valentine’s days. If I was 19 I could think there was something terribly wrong with me. Thank god for wisdom that comes with age, right? I’m not 19, and I AM entirely comfortable with my history.

It’s easy to say all of that now. I’ve found the person I plan to love forever, so it’s easy to look back and laugh at any time I ever spent worrying that I’d never find that real love I always heard about.

Believe me, if I were reading this post on this same day last year, I’d be on the verge of vomiting. That’s incredibly dramatic, and not true.. but I’d be rolling my eyes pretty hard.

So if that’s where you are as you read this, if you’re single and don’t want to be, if you’re in some way hurt by the idea of celebrating all of the happy relationships around you, then I want you to know what I’ve learned.

Forget the cards. Forget the flowers. Forget the candy — I mean, don’t entirely forget it, because those delicious chocolates and conversation hearts go on mega-sale Sunday and you don’t want to miss that.– Forget the pink and red hearts all over everything. Forget all the facebook posts you’ll see from one lover tagging another. None of that is love in it’s entirety. Love is a man who makes it known that he supports your dreams. It’s a man who really doesn’t get why you’re crying but wants to fix it anyway. It’s a man who doesn’t want anyone to hurt you. Love is a man who makes you feel strong and powerful. Love is a man who opens doors or carries heavy things for you sometimes… OR it’s a man who does neither of those things because he respects that you feel they counteract how far we’ve come as women and you can open the damned door yourself. Love is a man who cares about the issues that matter to you, because they matter to you. Love is a man who makes a Tuesday morning feel like a Saturday afternoon. Love doesn’t manifest itself one day a year for the whole world to see. That can be a piece of it, but it can’t be the whole thing.

And YOU… You can’t sit at home clicking through the highlight reels of other people’s attached holidays and think that you deserve anything less than all those gritty, real bits of love.

And if you’re really rolling your eyes at me now, if you’re single and you don’t want to be and you’re entirely convinced that I’m blinded to reality now that I’ve found love — just know this — unattached means nothing outside of right now. You could be staring at forever as early as next month. Trust me.

Sharing Christmas

I’ve never thought of myself as a collector. I’m sure when I was a kid I had brief moments of collecting things. I know I had a few baseball cards, and some Yo! MTV Raps trading cards (yes, those were a thing). I remember a brief time when I collected charms for a bracelet. I know at one point I thought it would be fun to collect the state quarters… until I realized I could take a couple of them up to the toy store near our house and trade them in for candy.

I don’t remember ever having a lasting collection of anything, except Christmas ornaments. I honestly never even thought of it as a collection until tonight. I probably have about 200 to my name. Every single one was given to me. Each year I get at least a couple new ones. There is always an angel, a tradition my mom and mamaw started a lifetime ago.. my brothers and I always get a new angel each year. There is always a ballerina, a tradition my mom started when I was a kid because I took ballet. There is almost always one more that doesn’t fit into either of those categories, because my mom loves shopping for them.

I didn’t realize until just a few years ago that massive ornament collections are not something every christmas-celebrating person has.

Part of my family’s Christmas tradition is the time spent unpacking the ornaments and remembering who and where they came from, before deciding where they should hang on this year’s tree. It may be my favorite tradition of the season.

There’s the tiny gold angel Mamaw and my mom picked up at Rockefeller Center on one of their bonding trips to New York City when I was just a baby. There’s the little teddy bear playing with a fisher-price toy that was given to me by my best friend’s parents for my second Christmas. The Baby Girl’s First Christmas ball Papaw bought for me to celebrate December 1987. There are the handmade Lutheridge ornaments I got each summer I worked at camp. Each ornament, all 200 of them, is incredibly special to me.. a collection that was started before I was old enough to even say the word Christmas.

I’ve never shared this holiday with anyone but my family. I’ve never been in a relationship serious enough to pick out a tree with another person, to shop for each other’s families, to wrap and ship the gifts to other states. Sharing traditions is new to me.

This week I learned that Russ writes Christmas cards to his family. I’ve never done that. I know about mailing Christmas cards, but I’ve never known that some people give Christmas cards with the gifts, like one would give a birthday card.

So earlier this week Russ and I picked out Christmas cards to give each other. And when we opened the shipment of gifts from his parents, there were cards inside. Russ asked me if we could put them on the tree, and after some brief confusion I learned he meant actually sitting the envelopes on branches of the tree — another thing that is new to me.

Russ has learned that I am a little holiday crazy. I’ve filled his December with Christmas music at all hours of the day, and obscene amounts of baked goods. He’s watched as I obsessed over wrapping gifts, and getting the hand-tied bows just right. He’s seen all elements of my Christmas crazy, and he’s letting it become his tradition too (or at least pretending not to mind it).

So this Christmas, along with all of the food, gifts, ornaments, and traditions I already know, there’s more love in my world than I’ve ever had, and that’s a good enough reason to make space for a few envelopes in the tree.


26 things i probably love enough to call my valentine

Because I’m single on Valentine’s Day and why the hell shouldn’t I make a list of things I love a lot?

1. The Carolinas: North and South. The way my heart feels when I cross the border of either one is how it should feel if I one day decide I like someone enough to marry him.
2. Peanut Butter. Enough said.
3. Reading a book so good I hope it never ends
4. The letter e, but only the lowercase kind unless it’s written in cursive
5. The time I spend trying to learn to play my guitar
6. When people remember music I like and recommend more like it, or play it because I’m around
7. Looking up awesome nike shoes on pinterest
8. The sound a coffee pot makes when it first starts brewing, a real coffee pot… not a keurig
9. Laughing really hard at things that aren’t even that funny but hit me just right
10. Carolina basketball, even when they kind of stink
11. Anything that is comically large or comically tiny
12. The football I got for Christmas that I didn’t ask for and I totally love
14. My birthday, your birthday, all the birthdays!
15. Sitting by a fire with good people
16. Making lists because I desperately want to be type A,
then losing lists because I’m hopelessly type B
17. Breaking News coverage
18. Long, random emails from my best friend that usually include a photo of a city neither of us call home
19. Anything honeysuckle scented
20. Long solo trail runs
21. Sprints around a track
22. Jumping over everything because I’m [possibly too] confident I can make it
23. Listening to old mixed CDs from high school
24. Shorts weather
25. Writing about anything even when it’s maddening, even when I can’t find the right words
26. My response to the ex who sent me a “happy valentines day” message